Monday, February 23, 2009

Flash-mob cataloging: We did it!

We did it! Eighteen flash-mob catalogers descended upon the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and left having cataloged a wonderful 2,500-book library (available here).

I've posted my photos here. (UPDATE: link is here.) Jeremy has a nice blog post and some photos. Brian, the "Swiss Army Librarian," posted his photos here.

For me the highlights were:
  • The diversity of people—LibraryThing nuts, local librarians, Audubon people.
  • The Audubon people were grateful, if a little stunned. Katya, who drove five hours to get there, floored them.
  • The Audubon library had its own bespoke classification system--I'm trying to get hold of it. They translated it to tags, which rebellious LibraryThingers added to as necessary (ie., no moths, pshaw!)
  • The couple—librarian, programmer—who competed to do the most books. The programmer won. How did he do it? "I pretended I was killing orcs." With reference to multi-volume sets (echoing Gimli) "It only counts as one!"
  • It was great showing one retired librarian to cataloging books on LibraryThing and have him say "That's it?"
  • The books were different. Our last flash-mob cataloging effort was for an Episcopal church, which had a lot of overlap with my library and interests. The Audubon Society shared only two of those books, and only one with me (The Diversity of Life). My dad's (partial) library overlapped a lot more.
  • What do we make of the Personality of insects? Carl Sandburg also had a copy. But LCSH does not allow "Personality" to be so subdivided. Species-ists!
  • Most Legacy Libraries share no books. Darwin and Hemingway do, of course. And Walker Percy who has, I think, the best library of the Legacy Libraries, excepting maybe Jefferson.
  • As Jeremy points out in the notes, Audubon shares with Ian Flemming James Bond's Birds of the West Indies. (Yes, that's where he got the name.)
  • Again, Katya did all the "hard" cataloging, including two not in WorldCat.
  • Books with rulers. News to me.
  • Taxidermy animals. My son, Liam, should have been there.
  • Mike and I fixed bugs in real time--and pushing collections (again) by mistake. (We pushed a major speed-up for the Audubon library alone; I'll be looking at extending it to all members.)
Next time we do this, we need to plan for a group-wide dinner/drinks afterward. With no group event, Mike, Jeremy, Katya and I headed to Cafe of India in Harvard Square for dinner, and a brief prowl of Harvard Book Store. Mike and I learned a lot, as usual. If librarianship were to be extinguished from the earth, I bet Jeremy and Katya could bring it back--with all the rigor it ever had (although it would be friendlier to tags).

Thanks to everyone who participated. You gave a day's worth of your time, with only a CueCat and a t-shirt in return--and the knowledge that naturalists throughout Rhode Island will be able to search the Audubon library from home, something many public libraries in New England still don't allow!

What's next? With a church and an Audubon society under our belt, I want to do something different, like a historical society.* Katya and Jeremy both had good ideas there--something in Maine perhaps? Stay tuned!

Labels: , ,


Blogger JBD said...

I liked their overlap with Ian Fleming too: Birds of the West Indies by James Bond :-)

2/23/2009 8:59 PM  
Blogger Sapience said...

Books with rulers: Susan Bordo's book _The Male Body_ also has one on the spine...

2/23/2009 9:02 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Is four inches labelled seven?

2/23/2009 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a ton of fun, wish I could have been there... Let me know if you ever manage to organize one within the midwest!


2/23/2009 9:17 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

I'm in Arlington Heights (IL) right now - let's descend on some poor historical society! I'll bring my lock-pick set!

2/23/2009 10:01 PM  
Blogger Fyrefly said...

That looks like fun! I'd absolutely be game for a Midwestern one.

2/23/2009 10:12 PM  
Blogger Margo said...

Please, oh please twitter about it if you plan to do another one...this looks like it was just brilliant!

2/23/2009 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonya, Fyrefly:

Maybe we should organize our own midwest flashmob!

I'm always up for a little "smash and catalogue" on those unsuspecting Historical Societies!

2/24/2009 9:11 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Fyrefly, thegreattim, keep your eye out for a library who could use an online catalog. I will too.

2/24/2009 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the Bishop Museum, in Honolulu, next? (

Isn't it time for a tropical vacation, with a bit of LT cataloging?

2/24/2009 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share one, too: Fruits and berries for the home garden by Lewis Hill.

I'm just waiting for one in Austria

2/26/2009 8:34 AM  
Blogger Inanna said...

This sounds really interesting, but the thing I'm struck most by is, you were in Smithfield, RI, and instead of having local seafood, you went up to Boston?? Were there NO local people to tell you where to eat? I'm from RI--I'm sorry you missed out. :-(

2/26/2009 12:19 PM  
Blogger David said...

I'm in St Louis and would love to be in on a Midwest drive-by cataloging!

2/26/2009 9:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't understand how to join thi group on Flash=Mob cataloging. I am interested in doing some projects for remote Native American Schools in New Mexico and Arizona.

3/04/2009 6:57 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

Alana - you can't actually join the Flash-Mob Cataloging group, because it's a "standing group". No one can join it, but anyone can "watch" it. You don't need to join to post, though!

3/05/2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger Spencer Merz said...

We would love to do this with a library of 1,000 volumes or so - what hardware and software are recommended? Cost is an issue. Reader, software, printer, etc?

Thanks for any help.


3/14/2009 2:33 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...


Send me an email to sonya at (I can't contact you through Blogger, and your username 'smdinghy' isn't a LibraryThing account.)

3/17/2009 12:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home